Please imagine that you take a friend (a guy) to meet a group of your friends at a party. The group and the guy are have never met one another and know nothing about one another. The guy starts clowning around out of the blue and you have no idea why he is acting like that. You feel shy in front of your group of friends and wish to let the guy know that you feel uncomfortable with his actions. You wish to tell him to not act foolishly and present the appearance of a low-class guy in front of your friends. In my mother language we may use any of the sentences below. I don't know if there are some equivalents in AmE to convey similar messages, or if they all work in English. I would appreciate it if someone could let me know if there is a natural sentence from among my suggested examples I could use, or if not please tell me what an AmE speaker would say instead:

  • Be high-class.

  • Be like a high-class person.

  • (Observe / maintain) your class.

  • Don’t act like a low-class person.

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    Not an answer, but also worth a mention is the (largely sarcastic) use of the phrase "stay classy" in response to seeing something that is decidedly not classy. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 17:07
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    in AmE this type of thing doesn't make sense, since no one (IN GENERAL, before people jump on me) refers to "class" in America. manners or etiquette maybe, but those are quite different from class. perhaps in BrE it is different.
    – user428517
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 21:14
  • It might be relevant to specify where you're from, as the underlying social class structure is likely very different. Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 3:10
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    @sgroves: I'm pretty sure I've heard people say that [something] was(n't) very classy of [someone] in AmE, so it'd be nice if you could reconcile that with your last comment.
    – user541686
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 4:16
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    @sgroves: Then I think you're misunderstanding the intention and reading this too literally. Notice the OP never said anything about the friend's actual socioeconomic class. I'm pretty sure that in the context the OP wants, you don't actually have to be a high-class person socioeconomically in order for someone to tell you to "maintain your class". The only requirement is that you'd normally act in a much more reserved/sophisticated/formal/whatever manner, and that your silliness is uncharacteristic of you, even if in your actual life you have no real socioeconomic class to speak of.
    – user541686
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 4:22

7 Answers 7


I'm not sure that in modern usage of english that we refer to class directly in this way - people tend to reference the attributes that go with being in an upper-class environment, rather than referring to the class itself.

For example, in the scenario you have provided, one might say:

  • Have some etiquette!
  • Show/have a little decorum.
  • Show some manners.
  • Show some respect.

...or variations thereof, to request that a friend act in a manner more appropriate to the social situation.

You can also take the opposite view, for example:

  • Don't be vulgar.
  • Don't be crass.
  • Don't be rude.

...and so on.

The closest I can think of that references the social class of that person would be

  • show a little class.

...but even then, the reference is indirect.


I don’t know anyone who would say, “Maintain your class.” The word class in this context doesn’t usually get a personal possessive pronoun such as my or your. Instead, we’d use a determiner like some:

Hey! Show some class.

Other good suggestions have been given in other answers – I particularly like “Show some manners.” I think “Don’t be crass” is good, too, although I might add a so in a sentence like that:

Don’t be so crass.

You could also warn the other person calmly:

You’re making a fool of yourself.

or rebuke them outright:

Don’t make such a fool of yourself.

and a cruder version of that might be:

Don’t be such an ass.

  • How about "Quit playing the fool". It's more casual than "You're making a fool of yourself", which is kind of schoolmarmy. You can nicen it up with "Would you quit playing the fool?"
    – Elby Cloud
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 18:58

Even though (social) class is a concept in American English, it tends to not be used commonly because the American culture tends to pretend social classes are either not important or don't exist (due to the equality of all people that is assumed by the culture).

So if I had to use one of your answers, I would use the last one (Don't act like a low-class person), but I would replace 'low class person' with 'a word like 'crass', 'crude' or 'unrefined' and say one of the following:

Don't be crass.
Don't be so unrefined.
Don't be crude.

Another, much more common sentence that conveys the same meaning is:

Act your age.

The sentence above implies that only a child (who doesn't know better) would act in this way.

  • Although the title says, “Maintain their class,” I don’t think the OP is talking about a class strata. As for “Act your age,” I think that’s a good one. It might be worth adding that an old saying went, “Act your age, not your shoe size.” Learners might find that somewhat amusing, though I would caution that the phrase became hackneyed over time, and I wouldn’t recommend using it – it comes across as trite and childish.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 10:29

Absolutely no one native to the UK using BrE would ever make a remark comparing someone's behaviour to a person from another 'class' unless, that is, they are themselves pretending to some degree of social 'refinement' (or snobbery, in fact). In the circumstances you describe, depending on what kind of person you are, you might take your friend on one side and ask what on earth is wrong with him that he's behaving like an idiot and embarrassing himself, or you might simply say 'don't be such a jerk/idiot/twit', or possibly 'what did you take before you got here', or 'what are you on', but never, ever would any such criticism include any reference to social class.

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    I’m not sure the OP is referencing social classes at all. After all, class is a versatile word, and there is a notion of class that is apart from social classes (think of a person who is humble, kind, and polite). We may not refer to social classes, but we do say things like, “he always had class” or “she does that with class."
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 1:59
  • @J.R. Thst might be right where you are, but not in the UK in any but a jokey sense - 'she does that with class' would more likely be 'she does that with consummate skill (or grace, or just well)' rather than class. Maybe us Brits avoid the use of that word because there's a long history of class division here,not sure. The phrase 'you've got class' is sometimes said by a man to a female as part of a flirtation routine though
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 12:22

The guy starts clowning around out of the blue and you have no idea why he is acting like that.

When someone is obviously in high spirits, and enjoying themselves I might leave well alone. If however the person's behaviour is really inappropriate, I might take them to one side and hiss...

  • Have you no dignity?
  • Do you realise how inappropriate / uncouth /ill-mannered / your behaviour is?
  • Don't you have any self-respect?
  • Stop embarrassing yourself.

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For something more direct, and "rural" then just ask

  • WTF are you doing?

As many have stated we don't generally refer to "class" directly (in the U.S.). It's always abstracted via the actual name of the group. As if by doing so we remove the group's relationship to class, which of course is complete nonsense.

We would say it like this, "Stop acting like a [insert name of group that your high class friends would be comfortable disparaging or that they commonly disparage]."

The answer can be found in the prejudices of your "high class" friends.


I'm confused why everyone is saying this expression doesn't exist. It does, and it's idiomatic:

"Stay classy."

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    This certainly in not idiomatic in the way the OP would like. It would most probably be understood as tongue in cheek.
    – DRF
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 12:28
  • @DRF: If you're being wild at a party and a good friend of yours tells you, "Hey, dude, I don't know why you're acting this way... stay classy", would you interpret that as somehow being tongue-in-cheek? I'd scramble to get my $h!1 together if that happened...
    – user541686
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 12:52
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    While 'stay classy' might be idiomatic, it's not so in the sense the OP is looking for. Stay classy is uttered either in condescension or tongue-in-cheek to a person or persons who says or does something overly offensive or classless. It's a put-down, rather than being advisory.
    – mike
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 14:37
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    I've heard tons of young people use "stay classy" both sincerely and with a dab of irony. Its connotations are generally context-specific and often intentionally vague.
    – Jack Lynch
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 6:54
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    @Mari-LouA: Is Urban Dictionary good enough for you? It lists both sarcastic and non-sarcastic. [Edit re: your edit: okay]
    – user541686
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 4:07

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